3D Printing and Law Enforcement

A good article from John Horner, a leader in the legal aspects of 3D printing.


3D printing has the potential to transform the world by simplifying manufacturing, shortening supply chains, democratizing production, creating jobs, and customizing products to our needs. But 3D printing can also be the devil’s playground. 3D printing also has a dark side. Guns have already been 3D printed and criminals are using 3D printers to create new forms of crime.

PoliceAlmost everyone has heard about the Texas law student, Cody Wilson, who made headlines in 2013 by 3D printing a plastic gun and posting the blueprints on the Internet. The blueprints were downloaded 100,000 times before the US government forced their removal from the server. But if it had not been Cody, it would have been someone else. In fact, the ZigZag plastic gun was 3D printed in Japan shortly after Wilson printed his and the maker went to jail.

In 2015, police in Oregon made arrests for the illegal possession an AR-15 assault rifle. Its lower receiver—the key to what makes it a weapon—was believed to have been 3D printed. A gun and 3D printing enthusiast called Derwood built the “Shuty” semi-automatic handgun partly from 3D printed parts. The weapon fired at least 800 rounds. More recently, a “Guy in a Garage,” as he calls himself, 3D printed the “Songbird,” which uses rubber bands for springs and a roofing nail for a firing pin, and fires multiple .357 rounds.

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